PARISH councils are urging Wiltshire Council to re-think its current lack of a strategy for large scale solar farms in the county.

Members of Minety and Hankerton parish councils have raised alarm bells over a “tidal wave of applications” for large-scale solar farms on greenfield land in North and West Wiltshire.

The councils highlighted three bids at Minety, Kemble Wick and Charlton Park – all of which are around or over 200-acres in size and within five miles of Minety.

The group said the council needs to update its strategy for siting these large renewable farms, and wants to see Wiltshire more proactive in identifying suitable sites for these developments.

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Earlier this year, nine parish councils banded together to write to the local authority over the 1,500-acres targeted for solar developments in the last two years.

The letter asks the council to ensure the cumulative impact of multiple developments nearby one another into account when reviewing applications.

Currently, the council’s strategy is to take each bid on a case by case basis.

The parishes which signed the letter are; Bremhill, Dauntsey, Hankerton, Kington St. Michael, Langley Burrell Without, Minety, Oaksey and Yatton Keynell.

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A spokesman for the group said: “We want to encourage more participation from the council in supporting the balance between the rural environment and the need for renewable energy.”It’s like David and Goliath – local communities alone struggle to review and scrutinise applications of this nature given that, due to their size and scale, these are essentially large infrastructure projects which require appropriate technical expertise to assess and consider them properly.

“We call on Wiltshire Council to play a more prominent and proactive part in identifying and supporting the balance between the rural environment, renewable energy and the effective use of greenfield land.

“The planning legislation does say brownfield land should be used in priority to greenfield. What we’re asking for is consistency with that expectation.”

The group says the council’s guidance on solar farms dates back to 2013, when the largest development was 17mw.

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Since 2019, the size has grown, as seven 49.9mw bid have been received by the local authority in the northern areas of the county.

This upscale in solar farm sizes is why the group says the council needs to act urgently to create a new strategy.

“No right minded person would be against the principle of renewable energy; however we would like to see greater scrutiny of the claims made by developers and the balanced assessment of the effective use of land,” the spokesman added.

Cabinet member for development management, strategic planning and climate change, Nick Botterill said: “It was helpful to understand further through a recent virtual meeting with councillors from Minety and Hankerton parish councils, their concerns about large scale solar farms.

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"As part of the Local Plan Review, on June 29, 2021 cabinet agreed that further work will be undertaken on key parts of the evidence base for the plan including a Wiltshire wide assessment of renewable energy potential.

"We are commissioning independent consultants to assist us with this to inform the Local Plan and help us consider in what way our existing policies need to be added to or changed.

"In the meantime, we will continue, as we are obliged to by law, to consider planning applications carefully and assess these against the current development plan which contains planning policies that relate to standalone renewable energy, as well as national policy and guidance, taking into account the cumulative effect that these could have on an area.“

The virtual meeting was also attended by Grittleton, Bremhill, Oaksey and Dauntsey parish councils.